The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Vanderbilt

impelling fascination

leave a comment »

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Long time readers will recognize the shot above from a January 2012 posting entitled “Hermes Trismegistus“, which describes the great statue which adorns the Vanderbilt Rail Palace known as “Grand Central Terminal” in Manhattan.

Recent adventure carried me to the place, where I found myself with an uncommon view of the Tiffany Clock which bejewels the carving.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Inside of it.

More on this in a posting next week, but I can’t just sit on these shots without sharing them. The clock face itself is pretty enormous.

A simple image search will show this to hardly be a unique photo, but regardless, this was a thrilling place to visit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There is a chamber back here, of masonry and exposed steel, which the clock is mounted into. The number six on the clock’s face is a window outfitted with a hinge. This wasn’t “urban exploration”, incidentally, my presence here was sanctioned.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is what Park Avenue looks like from the clock at Grand Central Station, that’s Union Square in the distance. Click the image to check out larger views at flickr.

More next week.


Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming boat tours of Newtown Creek

July 22nd, 2012 NEXT SATURDAY

Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 13, 2012 at 2:18 am

Errata Hari

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As often mentioned in posts since the very inception of this, your Newtown Pentacle, when I screw up- whether it be a place name, roadway, or some other variance from reality- I’m counting on being called on it and corrected by you assembled Lords and Ladies of Newtown.

Often, when contacted on such matters- an unnecessarily confrontational tone is offered by the petitioner to your humble narrator. Sometimes, wild accusations of defaming the past or purposely smoothing over inconvenient truths are put forth. Before we discuss the rather lengthy list of errors that I’ve been made aware of regarding the Vanderbilt Mansion postings published earlier this month, allow me to restate and clarify things…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The pitiable mendicant who calls himself “your humble narrator” is an unlettered amateur, untempered by the crucible of academic review, whose flawed attempt at presenting a cogent overview and glimpse into an often hidden world of relict infrastructure and unseen corners found around the great metropolis is sometimes successful.

There are certain subjects which I refuse to delve too deeply into- famously NYFD history and Rail- for there are amateur experts out there whose depth of knowledge on these topics is staggering. Intelligent discussion of historic Newtown can be had “off the top of my head”, but it’s when I leave “my beat” that I tend to get into trouble.

The Vanderbilt Mansion revealed certain lapses in capabilities, and remind one that I am an expert on nothing except embarrassing myself in public. If I’m wrong about something, please contact me through the comments, so corrections may be offered to your fellow Lords and Ladies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thankfully, Eric Weaver, who served as Horticultural Educator at “Vandyland” from 2004 to 2007 contacted me with a lengthy list of corrections regarding the Vanderbilt Mansion posts and has given me permission to post them here. All the following text (in blue) is from Mr. Weaver.

ERRATA Vanderbilt Mansion 1

– photo by Mitch Waxman

He also flew, having been the first to circumnavigate South America and cross the Andes in a “flying boat.”

He collected fauna not flora.

He didn’t have a fleet, his boats and ships were owned in succession.

His dock was too shallow to accommodate ocean going ships. He moored the Alva at Price’s Bend off of Eaton’s Neck. JP Morgan had to moor his ship there too which gave his son HP Morgan the idea of buying up 500 acres on Eaton’s Neck which is still known as the Morgan Estate.

The Guatemalan church only influenced the design on the Marine Museum.

He wasn’t powerful, just rich.

There was no fleet of vessels and the only collection was at Eagle’s Nest.

ERRATA Vanderbilt Mansion 2

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Vanderbilt family were farmers, hence the boat to take the vegetables into Manhattan.

Willie K I  did not want to compete making money like his father and grandfather, so he decided to spend it. He seemed to compete with his brothers building houses.

Willie K II did not compete building houses. His places are modest compared to his father’s generation.

The planetarium was built by Suffolk County, not the state.

The Marine Museum has not been officially called the Hall of Fish since they put the second story on in the late twenties.

There are some nice totems and artifacts on the second floor.

The ironwork at the door of the second floor of the ‘fish house’ was used to haul up the large objects.

ERRATA Vanderbilt Mansion 3

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Willie K did not own a fleet. Did you visit the ship model room?

The ship Alva that you write about was Willie K I’s ship. Willie K II’s Alva was built in Kiel, Germany in the same shipyard that the U-boat that sunk it was built. (Did I mention that Lindbergh was one of Willie K II’s friends?)

The narrative goes that it takes five generations to make the fortune then squander it.

ERRATA Vanderbilt Mansion 4

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Breakers was Cornelius V  II. GWV was the Biltmore in North Carolina. These were two of the Uncles of Willie K  II who competed in building.

Eagle’s Nest is in Centerport on Northport Bay. Maybe the fumes of formaldehyde (since replaced with alcohol) from the second floor overcame you.

Consuelo was forced to wear hoops on her neck to elongate it. Alva locked her in her boudoir for long periods.

The historic castle doors are ornamental. Security is too lax as golden things get stolen frequently. The curator was offered half a million in cash for one artifact on the second floor of the fish house. There are valuable things there.

The Alva didn’t dock in Northport.

ERRATA Vanderbilt Mansion 5

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The property is NOT  owned by the State of New York but Suffolk County. Willie K left an endowment of six million dollars. It was up over twenty in the late nineties. Graft and corruption by the former director brought them back to six mil. The county is loaning them money now to make ends meet. If not, the property reverts back to the family.

The photography policy is no professionals and not in the mansion because they make money on photo shoots, especially wedding pictures.

To get to the beach you need to go to the seaplane hangar.

There have been numerous Newsday articles about the wheelchair access. To make the place totally wheelchair accessible it would no longer be a museum.

Eagle’s Nest being decrepit serves as an indication of what happens to wealth.

Eagle’s Nest was started in 1909 but he kept adding on until the 1930s.

The portcullis is fake and does not move but there are iron bars on all lower windows   on most buildings – did I mention Lindbergh?

He had his own wells and a power plant to generate electricity.

Willie K did contribute to science, discovering and naming many new species.

Thanks to Mr. Weaver, who unfortunately doesn’t maintain a web presence that I can send you to check out.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2010 at 10:33 am

Vanderbilt Mansion 5

with 3 comments

check out the prior Vanderbilt Mansion posts: 1, 2, 3, and 4

I’m in a bit of a conversational mood tonight, lords and ladies… forgive the indulgence of a personally opinionated voice in this posting-

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rest of the Eagle’s Nest Estate are landscaped grounds, whose manicuring has certainly seen better days. No sleight is meant toward the current custodians, of course, but one must assume that the status minded Vanderbilts undoubtedly spent a great deal more on gardening than a museum can. Observation revealed many places where the unlimited budgets of earlier times would be helpful in shoring up the estate.

note: I’ve been to the Hellenic Republic, commonly called Greece, a few times. Those people have the good taste to just accept ruination of aging structures.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Built fancifully, to satisfy the whimsy and taste of landed gentry, the buildings that dot the Eagle’s Nest are all in differing stages of dissolution. Researching the Vanderbilt Mansion, here at Northport, repeatedly turned up tales of financial strife. The property was willed, ultimately, to the State of New York which has inconsistently funded it. Forced to accede to popular culture by financial reality, the planetarium presents Laser Rock shows- a vestige of Long Island’s 1970’s and 80’s “head culture”.

note: despite the reputation of the five boroughs of New York City as the center of mortal sin and drug culture in the tri-state area held by suburban residents, the psychedelic culture calls Long Island, New Jersey, Upstate New York, and Connecticut home. How many Fish bumper stickers do you see in Brooklyn?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The actual mansion is a hodge podge of architectural themes and styles. Bas reliefs, which repeat and amplify the hideous battrachian implications found on the Hall of Fishes, seem to be randomly placed throughout the main building. On the lowest level of the place is a room of taxidermy, whose prize possession is a whale shark. An accidental byproduct of the stuffed skins is produced by the searching horror of their glass eyes. I chose not to showcase this section of the trip, as blood sport is not something which Newtown Pentacle editorial policy is very fond of, and because of some misguided sympathy for the long dead animals which line this rich man’s walls.

note: Your humble narrator is a carnivore, and is more aware than most of how an animal’s flesh hits his plate. The companionship of many a Vegan has been enjoyed at Newtown Pentacle HQ, and that group of folks aren’t exactly shy about sharing their viewpoints with me.  Hypocritical, I nevertheless don’t see the value of publishing a photo of a stuffed Tiger skin which is caked with dust.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As is the case with many quasi public-private institutions, signs adjuring the practice of photography abound. I can understand a regulation saying “Not Tripod, No Lights”, but am flabbergasted by the notion that a public building or Non-Profit corporation which welcomes visitors forbids the collection of photons. As mentioned in the past, your humble narrator is employed sometimes as a photo retoucher and all around desktop publishing guy at major metropolitan advertising agencies, and has developed a rather sophisticated knowledge of intellectual property law and custom. Did you know that the Empire State building itself, I mean the actual building, is a zealously protected and trademarked intellectual property? If you want to use an image of New York and the Empire State appears in it as a main element (over 30% of the shot), you need to seek permission from some landlord.

note: Yes, I claim copyright on the photos and text that appear in this blog. Yes, I want to use a “creative commons” approach, but counsel has informed me that while it sounds great, there is no significant legal precedent or body of case law covering such status- especially in international agreements. Yes, the Empire State people need to protect their “brand” and try to make a few bucks at the same time. Should the Catholics claim copyright on the cross, by this logic?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Remnants of the Eagle’s Nest’s role as a port can be observed just at the water’s edge, beyond fences of brush and bush. Shame, the beach was unreachable along any path I attempted. Signage forbade the use of stairs as unsafe, but I felt that the area was closed merely in the name of not having to maintain it in the expensive manner required for disabled access which would be demanded under state law. The entire estate, incidentally, was not geared well for wheelchairs or other ambulatory contrivances. It is constructed on a steep and sloping shoreline which is subsected by a series of smaller yet remarkable hills and the connective tissue of the place are stairs.

note: Northport hosts many impressive and attractive homes, and is obviously a moneyed community even today. My family has one of its branches here, in nearby Melville, which established itself in the 1960’s as part of the enormous eastward migration from Brooklyn and Queens of the same ethnic urban hordes which the Vanderbilts and other “bosses” had established these country home communities to escape from in the early 20th century. I would mention that my Uncle’s down payment for his house near “Old Country Road” was accomplished via the GI Bill and the sweat of his brow, not by inheritance. He’s a depression era Jewish kid from Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s no possibility, you see, that I cannot react to this vulgar display of financial power without comment. Another one of the little things about history that emerged when researching this series of posts is this- the Vanderbilt family won the battle. So did Carnegie, and Rockefeller. Their wealth, won by the literal slaughter of their workers, built a series of these monumental structures across the Americas and endowed University, Library, and Charitable Organ. Within a mere three generations, who they were and what they did- these Robber Barons- is forgotten by the population at large. The names of these men and women are carved in modern stone as benificent, yet their business practices and corrupting influence over government and finance are overlooked. Philanthropy, as a strategic tool of historical reputation, works.

note: I ain’t no commie, don’t get a humble narrator wrong- however- the obscene splendor enjoyed by these few at the expense of the many resulted in a lot of death and trauma in the 19th century. Conveniently, the working class then as now were willing to focus in on comical personnages of the “dirty politician” like Boss Tweed- who had risen from their own social group- rather than focus on the real bosses in the overclass. The banks, the trusts, the corporations- Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower warned us a long time ago. Tea Party? I drink coffee. Black.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Eagle’s Nest was built in 1910, same year that Henri Rousseau died and the Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet. In Tibet, the 13th Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India, and Typhoid Mary won release from Blackwell’s Island, while over in Manhattan, and Brooklyn, and Queens- the immigrant working class found themselves fighting over crusts of bread. There was real fear of a communist revolution in the United States in this period, and the Robber Barons built concentric rings of security into their houses. William K. Vanderbilt II felt the need for a porticullis, for instance.

note: Our society’s lack of what I’ve termed “institutional memory” is what is going to destroy us in the end.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator started working at 7 years old, shining shoes in a mafioso barber shop in Canarsie. It’s been a series of humiliations since, once I enjoyed a job whose task list included- literally- shoveling shit. For a while, I was an Aquarium Service Technician and found myself in Gypsy Rose Lee’s former mansion, down the block from the Vanderbilt Library in midtown Manhattan (which was owned at the time by the painter Jasper Johns- nice guy). Another professional incarnation found me laboring as a Fine Art Mover, installing Giacometti sculptures in a private gallery in Croton on Hudson. Corporate jobs have included work at a midtown investment bank, on the night shift, which had the portrait of George Washington that is found on the Dollar Bill prominently displayed in its executive wing- literal corridors of power. I can tell you this- the bosses don’t care about you, and view everyone outside of their social class as either inferior and lacking in ambition or worthy of pity.

note: OK, that sounds pretty “commie”, but the inequitable split of capitalist reward is a trend which had abated somewhat between the Great Depression and the 1980’s and has been operating in a retrograde fashion since the Reagan years. The death of organized labor and collective bargaining, as well as the cult of Ayn Rand and the smaller government mantra is a disturbing trend and an example of “the rubber band stretching back to its original shape”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Inside the mansion, the offices and drawing room of William K. Vanderbilt the 2nd. From here, expeditions were launched across the seven seas which plumbed the benthic depths, searching for some elusive prize. Organic specimens and detailed charts were compiled, hidden knowledge organized, and ancient mariner’s secrets revealed in the pages of worm eaten books. What secrets were uncovered, and hidden from coarse eyes?

note: you don’t really believe that what the Vanderbilts made public was all they found, do you?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Go take a look for yourselves:


Vanderbilt Museum April Hours
March 27 – April 5, 2010 (Closed Easter)

Mansion, Marine Museum, Natural History Exhibits and Grounds Open Tuesdays and Fridays 12-5. Saturdays 11-5 and Sundays 12-5. Closed to general public Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays except by appointment. For more information please call 631.854-5579. Please check back for May and June Hours.

Observing Friday Nights (weather permitting)

[The closing times listed above is for the closing of the Buildings/Grounds and Exhibit Areas. The ticket booth will close one hour earlier. The last mansion tour is one hour before closing.]


Vanderbilt Museum
180 Little Neck Road
Centerport, New York 11721-0605

From the LIE Exit 51, The Northern State Parkway Exit 42N, and The Southern State Parkway Exit 39N:
Drive North on Deer Park Avenue, bear left at the fork (at traffic light), onto Park Avenue. At 3rd light, make a right turn onto Broadway, continue for 4-5 miles until you reach Route 25A. Cross 25A (to left of Centerport Automotive), and you are on Little Neck Road. The Vanderbilt Museum is 1.5 miles on the right.

From the South Shore:
Take the Sagtikos Pakway North to the Sunken Meadow Parkway north. Take the last exit, 25A West. Travel about 8 miles and make a right at the Centerport Automotive in Centerport, onto Little Neck Road. We are 1.5 miles on the right.

From Route 110 or 25A West:
Travel north on 110 to Huntington Village. Make a right turn onto 25A/Main Street. Travel about 4 miles to Centerport, at the flashing yellow light, bear left onto Park Circle, then turn left onto Little Neck Road. We are 1.5 miles on the right.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Vanderbilt Mansion 4

with one comment

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The upper crust in New York City, like rich people everywhere, have always held a certain fascination with the esoteric arts. Modernity registers adherents to a bastardized form of the Hebrew Kabbalah, the dietary rituals of Sufism have been commoditized into “cleansing diets”, and the Yoga favored by the ladies of the Upper East Side was popularized in the United States by Aleister Crowley. The Vanderbilts, all the way back to the Commodore, are no strangers to the occult.


Like millions of Americans of his time, the Commodore was a believer in occult practices and enlisted the help of mediums to contact departed family members. Following his wife Sophia’s death in 1868, according to Stasz, Cornelius became involved with the Chaflin sisters, two mediums who claimed to be able to materialize ectoplasm. Victoria was said to have been clairvoyant from the age of three; Tennessee, the younger, had once been billed as “the Wonder Child” in a traveling medicine show.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Fortune tellers, spiritualists, theosophists- all eked out an existence at the edges of high society. The parlor culture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries encouraged a diverse range of visitors to find themselves presenting philosophical or religious theories to the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age. Occultists of all stripes were favored guests, who would thrill the children and delight the ladies. Often, social issues such as abolition of slavery or the adoption of the so called “english week” for laborers would be discussed. Such presentations, when delivered by reputable speakers, would often result in philanthropic gestures toward this university or that orphanage. The spiritualists, however, had to become theatrical.

Parlor tricks, as they became known, were designed to excite the fancy of an audience. Psychics, wizards, and healers minister to and suck upon the teat of wealth- the best the poor can hope for is a prophet.


Dowling College originated in 1955 when Adelphi College offered extension classes in Port Jefferson, Riverhead, and Sayville. In 1959, at the urging of community leaders, Adelphi Suffolk College became the first four year, degree granting liberal arts institution in Suffolk County, housed in an old public school building in Sayville. In January 1963, Adelphi Suffolk College purchased the former W.K. Vanderbilt estate in Oakdale and began developing as an important educational force on Long Island.

The Vanderbilt Era. In 1876, William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad magnate, purchased 900 acres, from Montauk Highway to the Great South Bay, on the east bank of the Connetquot River, on which to build his summer and holiday residence. The original mansion burned to the ground and was rebuilt in 1901 with the 110 room, graystone and red brick structure, designed by Richard Howland Hunt. In 1920, after the death of W.K. Vanderbilt, the estate was put up for sale by his son Harold K. Vanderbilt. After seven years, the mansion and its surrounding lands were sold to developers. The farm area became an artists’ colony while the large parcel of wooded land with its extensive canals became the residential community known as Idle Hour.

Pre-College Years. The mansion remained relatively untouched through a succession of owners. These included flamboyant characters of the Prohibition Era and a short term stay of a spiritual cult, the Royal Fraternity of Master Metaphysicians. In 1947, when the National Dairy Research Council purchased the mansion and the remaining 23 acres of the original tract, extensive changes were made to accommodate laboratories in the Carriage House (now Curtin Student Center) and indoor tennis courts (now part of the Kramer Science Center).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

William K. Vanderbilt II was born in 1878- 13 years after the civil war, and died in 1944- one year and eight months before Hiroshima. The first half of his lifetime took place during a time known as the Gilded Age (which his family personally gilded, mind you) but more importantly- it was also the time of the Third Great Awakening and the Second Industrial Revolution. An era of wild experimentation with religious and spiritual stylings, the period between the Civil War and the Atomic Bomb spawned radical political movements as well. Suffragettes (one of whom was Willie K.’s own mother- Alva Vanderbilt), socialists, theosophists– all were extant. “The pendulum swings both ways” as I always say, and our modern world’s fascination with religious and political fundamentalism is the inverse of this deeply emotional era with its wide open horizons.

I would point out incidentally, that when visiting the wikipedia page for “The Gilded Age”, the house shown is the Vanderbilt’s own “Breakers” in Newport, Rhode Island.


All of those things are almost as impressive as the events that seem to have taken place there. Rumors of haunting’s and paranormal activities have occurred on the grounds ever since its owner, George Washington Vanderbilt passed on to the other side in 1914 due to complications from surgery.

It’s been recorded that his widow, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser Vanderbilt, carried many conversations with her deceased husband over the years. Edith passed away in 1958. It is said that’s when a lot of the strange events began to happen. Employees began to hear laughing, talking, footsteps, and would see George Vanderbilt in the library, as well as Edith.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The neat cases of taxidermy lining the walls here at the Hall of Fishes hold rare and esoteric specimens of the deep, collected and categorized by WKV2 (William K. Vanderbilt II from this point on) and returned to Long Island’s North Port where this estate- his Eagle’s Nest- is found. Curators gently asked me not to focus in too deeply on the specimens, and implied that a criminal trade exists for biological artifacts such as these as an explanation for a ban on photography normally enforced within the building. Irony, for the Vanderbilts were seldom camera shy, when presenting themselves in public that is.


Cornelius and seven other Vanderbilts are buried at Moravian Cemetery in Staten Island, New York. It is the largest cemetery in Staten Island. In the 19th century, the Vanderbilts gifted this famous cemetery over twelve acres of land. Today, Moravian Cemetery has 113 acres of land.

The Vanderbilts are buried in the Vanderbilt tomb in Moravian Cemetery. It is the largest private tomb in the United States. As you approach the back of the cemetery, you will come across the Vanderbilt tomb gate, which had to of been locked and stood-upright due to the death of a woman. The gate had fallen on her, causing her death. The path to the tomb is a 1/5-mile drive after passing the gate.

The Vanderbilt tomb’s gate is said to be haunted. Besides the death of the woman, whenever someone takes a picture in front of it, it is said that people in the picture disappear or unknown people appear. There have been a number of freak accident deaths that have occurred at the Vanderbilt tomb. It has also been said that if you bring flowers to the tomb, you will be chased and even grabbed at by a ghost in a gray suit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A horrible cacophony of those things which the sea hides were arranged and posed as if they were participating in some hideous bacchanal. Something about their arrangement awakened in me some forgotten ideation about some relict town in New England, and a sea captain… who came to Calvary Cemetery from Massachusetts to collect the corpse of a the enigmatic “turn of the last century merchant trader” named Gilman. (for more on “searching for Gilman” click here)

Their odd aspect and staring eyes drove me into one of “my states”, and the room began to swirl around your humble narrator. The benthic composition suggested to my fevered thoughts.. how can I explain the seeming eidelon of “a very bad idea” which hatched in my rapidly numbing mind?

I nearly collapsed to the marbled floor, but luckily- Our Lady of the Pentacle anticipated me and moved her frail husband subtly toward the door.

from wikipedia

In those days, there were many weddings of European aristocrats with American heiresses. For the nobles of the Old World, such unions were shameful, but useful in financial terms; the nobility looked upon the Americans who married into their caste as intruders, unworthy of their new position.

In her biography, Consuelo Vanderbilt later described how she was required to wear a steel rod, which ran down her spine and fastened around her waist and over her shoulders, to improve her posture. She was educated entirely at home by governesses and tutors and learned foreign languages at an early age. Her mother was a strict disciplinarian and whipped her with a riding crop for minor infractions. When, as a teenager, Consuelo objected to the clothing her mother had selected for her, Alva Vanderbilt told her that “I do the thinking, you do as you are told.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Half leaning on her alabaster form, half walking, I stole one last shot from inside this place… this Dutchman’s idea of a scientific paradise.

from wikipedia

Alva and William K. Vanderbilt would have three children. Consuelo was born on 2 March 1877, followed by William Kissam II on 2 March 1878, and Harold Stirling on 6 July 1884. Alva would maneuver Consuelo into marrying Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough on 6 November 1895. The marriage would be annulled much later, at the duke’s request and Consuelo’s assent, on 19 August 1926. The annulment was fully supported by Alva, who testified that she had forced Consuelo into the marriage.[7] By this time Consuelo and her mother enjoyed a closer, easier relationship. Consuelo went on to marry Jacques Balsan, a French aeronautics pioneer. William Kissam II would become president of the New York Central Railroad Company on his father’s death in 1920. Harold Stirling graduated from Harvard Law School in 1910, then joined his father at the New York Central Railroad Company. He remained the only active representative of the Vanderbilt family in the New York Central Railroad after his brother’s death, serving as a director and member of the executive committee until 1954.

– photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

While I recovered from my near faint, Our Lady of the Pentacle went to work, citing some Britishism about grumbling. Heroically, she snatched the trusty G10 camera from my pack and procured the shots above and below, detailing the fantastic patinas of the stout iron wrought door that seals the museum off from the outside world. I wondered aloud… why would such a barrier be required in a gated estate surrounded by high masonry walls with a manned guardhouse at the front gate?

from wikipedia

In 1936 and 1937 George Vanderbilt sponsored a renewal of auto races for the Vanderbilt Cup but most important to him was a scholarly interest in the study of marine life. He owned several yachts and used them to conduct scientific expeditions all over the globe. His voyages conducted important research in expeditions to Africa in 1934 and aboard the schooner Cressida, he made an ocean journey in 1937 to the South Pacific notably in Sumatra that carried out a systematic study of more than 10,000 fish specimens (434 species in 210 genera).

His fifth major expedition was on the schooner Pioneer in 1941 to the Bahamas, Caribbean Sea, Panama, Galapagos Archipelago and Mexican Pacific Islands.

He established the George Vanderbilt Foundation for scientific research but outside academic circles, his important work has mostly been overshadowed by the lavish lifestyles and the Vanderbilt mansions of some of the other members of the Vanderbilt family.

– photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

Outside, beneath the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself, I began to feel more like myself. Our Lady adjured me to rest while she grabbed her shots.


Swift changes of temperature and a wide variation in scenery are all part of the day’s run if one happens to motor in portions of North Africa as did William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., in some journeyings which he describes in The Journal of the Automobile Club of America.

– photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

The forbidding door, we were told by museum staff, once had needle like spikes protruding from it. The door faces the seaward side of the hill, where the Alva once docked in Northport, and delivered those things it had dredged up out of the dark and cold sea to the clean sands of the Long Island. Who can guess what sort of creatures Vanderbilt and his crew made congress with as they travelled around the globe?


William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., was arrested in Long Island City on a charge of speeding his automobile through the streets of that city last evening. He was only overtaken and arrested after a lively chase, which extended from Jackson Avenue and Beach Street to the viaduct of the Newtown Creek Bridge which crosses Jackson and Borden Avenues, where he was compelled to slow up in order to pass under the viaduct.

– photo by Our Lady of the Pentacle

Recovering, I managed to resume my activities, and Our Lady of the Pentacle insisted I step away from the Hall of the Fishes and walk with her in light- for a time.

check out this pdf of the “Bulletin of Vanderbilt Marine Museum, Volume 3, Scientific Results of the Cruises of the Yacths “Eagle” and “Ara”, 1921-1928, William K. Vanderbilt, commanding” at

Final Vanderbilt Museum post tomorrow…

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 14, 2010 at 2:24 am

Vanderbilt Mansion 3

with 2 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Hall of Fishes, nestled squamously against a steep hill, displays certain motifs and thematic elements that are mockeries of Roman proportion and restraint. The individual who commissioned this structure was a railroad tycoon and adventurer whom men called William K. Vanderbilt II (or Jr. depending on time period).

William K. Vanderbilt II (WKV2 from this point on) commanded a fleet of what he called “steam yachts” but were actually maritime research vessels that also happened to carry the amenities and luxuries that a scion of the Vanderbilt clan had come to expect.

Death of the Alva- from

“The Alva, named for William K. Vanderbilt I’s wife, was designed by St. Clare J. Byrne as a three-masted bark-rigged screw steamer with a steel hull. The Harlan & Hollingsworth Company built the Alva at Wilmington, Delaware, and launched her October 15, 1886. The Alva had an overall length of 285′, and a length on the waterline of 252′. Her measurements were as follows, extreme beam 32.25′, depth 21.5′, and draft 17′. Her tonnage was 1,151.27 gross and 600.55 net.

“Late Saturday afternoon, the Alva departed Bar Harbor bound for Newport. Captain Henry Morrison, a sturdy Englishman, was in command of the Alva. The Alva’s crew totaled 52 men, including officers. Proceeding South, Sunday morning, the Alva encountered a dense fog off Monomoy Point. Immediately, the Alva’s crew sounded her steam whistle. The Alva anchored at precisely 6:30 am to wait for a clearing. Although he did not know it at that time, Captain Morrison had anchored the Alva in Pollock Rip Channel, about 4.1 miles East of Monomoy Point Lighthouse.

“At 8:20 am, a tremendous crash followed by the sound of flying timbers and deck fittings instantly brought everyone to the Alva’s deck with little more than the clothes on their backs. Captain Morrison went forward to examine the damage and found a mortal wound in the Alva’s port side. He gave the order to abandon ship. Eventually, everyone made it from the Alva to the Dimock, which had anchored about 500 yards from the Alva.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Gently raised, grandson of the richest man in America, WKV2 had a taste for dangerous fun. An enthusiast for the razor’s edge of technological advancement, his youth was spent racing about in that most modern of conveyances- the Automobile- or on the water. The apogee of the european colonial and mercantilist system witnessed a golden age of ship building in the late 19th and early 20th century, with ever larger and faster steel hulled ships challenging the seas. Steam driven, these ships carried cargo to and from the great ports, and the Vanderbilt family had dominated the shipping industry in the Americas since the time of the Commodore.

Here’s part one of “Over the Seven Seas with Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt” via

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Baroque and florid, this is the capitol that sits over the main entrance to the structure. By the time of WKV2, the great fortune of the Commodore had been divided many times over, and the Vanderbilt family had become part of the “establishment”. Extravagant whimsy expressed in architecture became one of their trademarks, and the landscape of the United States is dotted with their palaces. None, though, are quite like WKV2’s “Eagle’s Nest”.

Here’s part two of “Over the Seven Seas with Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt” via

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Samuel Yellin iron work, in some detail, which writhes about the Hall of Fishes.


The Harlan Hollingsworth Company has just finished for Mr. William K. Vanderbilt the steel yacht Alva, the finest pleasure ship afloat, at a cost of $650,000, and she will be launched at Wilmington next Saturday if conditions and circumstances are propitious.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A tenebrous attraction layers the wrought metal, some terrible magnetism evocative of the cubists- or the degenerate graffiti one finds scrawled on the steel of those bridges which span an assassin of joy called the Newtown Creek.

It’s organic shape and lack of convention suggests a radical soul, rebelling against social class and high society which has both nurtured and confined its powerful intellect. When researching WKV2, again and again one word kept popping into the search engine narrative – Illuminati.


During the 1920’s, Mr. Vanderbilt set out on a series of scientific expeditions around the world. He collected thousands of sea specimens and brought them back for display in his marine museum. There are 4,000 specimens on display, from the manatee, a 10-foot-long aquatic mammal from the tropics currently on the endangered species list, to the blue, yellow and striped unicorn surgeon fish from the waters of New Caledonia. They represent collecting efforts made over many years and many oceans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

WKV2, like the entire Vanderbilt clan, are meant to be part of some overarching global conspiracy which stretches out from the ivory towers in which they hide. The story goes that there are 11 families in the United States, oligarchs all, who secretly control and manipulate both the government and economy to guarantee their favor. Getty’s, Rockefeller’s, Dodge’s, Vanderbilts etc. these families- or houses- vie with each other for secret control over mankind and are all working toward some elusive and secret agenda. Just like the same stories about the Freemasons, your humble narrator puts little stock in such tales.



William  K.  Vanderbilt’s  “Ara”  collected  a  new  shark  species:  band-tailed  cat  shark (Pristurus arae). They took 5 tortoises from Duncan Island for the New York Zoo.  In 1931 he returns in the “Alva”.

November. The “Svaap” with William Albert Robinson and Bill Wright. They found one person on Floreana, the Norwegian fisherman, Urholt.

There were 136 inhabitants on Isabela Island. The total in Galapagos: 507. Tuna boats from San Diego, California began to arrive.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Walker’s, a clan of Texas slave owners who contributed the W. to George W. Bush, are meant to be a part of these illuminati, as are the Bush’s themselves. Just as I answer the controversy about 9/11, when the inevitable “Bush did it” line comes up- What exactly, on the resume of these people, suggests to you that they had the acumen to pull a job of such scale, based on their performance in other areas? The Vanderbilts, in their first three or four generations, were capable of enormous things- but do you really believe that CNN’s Anderson Cooper (son of Gloria Vanderbilt) is one of the secret rulers of the world?


…Off the equatorial west coast of South America lie the Galapagos Islands, longtime home of quaint fowl and ancient reptiles, onetime base of buccaneer expeditions. Now Ecuador owns and the U. S. explores them. Most recent pryers about the islands have been William K. Vanderbilt II and his wife, trapping sapphire-eyed cormorants, penguins pompous as bartenders, Galapagos tortoises with leathery shells, fish whose pied throats pulsate languidly. Such catch Mr. Vanderbilt carried on his yacht Ara to Miami, Fla., where on an off-shore island he maintains his private aquarium and tropical bird reservation and where, insouciantly clad in bathing suit, slippers and tennis hat he directed the unloading of his craft.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

WKV2 spent years at sea, visiting Pacific Atolls and European Courts. Rumors suggest that he was, covertly, conducting back room diplomatic work for the United States government- but I haven’t been able to find anything conclusive to prove this.

Travel broadens one’s mind, or so the saying goes, but perhaps there are things that are better left forgotten. Dark ancestral things whose secrets are handed down from father to son in sweaty jungle lodges which smell of blood and smoke, or in tapestry clad castle towers. Everywhere he went, his men dredged the waters… searching…


After spending years hanging in a rotting and decrepit state, a 32-foot whale shark, believed to the largest real mounted fish in the world, has been restored and is ready for viewers of the Vanderbilt Museum’s Habitat collection.

Caught in 1935 off Fire Island by Arie and Nicholas Schaper, the 16,000-pound shark was the northernmost catch on record at the time. William K. Vanderbilt II bought it from the Schaper brothers and housed it in his Habitat room at his Eagle’s Nest mansion amid his collection of specimens gathered on his many worldly jaunts.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Across the world’s oceans, the American Playboy and his bride drove their crew to exertion and discovery, creating a thorough and scientific recording of the life form’s collected. One can only guess what Vanderbilt decided the world had no need for knowledge of, and omitted from his logs. Or, perhaps he kept another set of books, a practice he’d have been familiar with from his years as a New York business man.

from wikipedia

Some of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s offspring gained fame as successful entrepreneurs while several achieved prominence in other fields such as Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt (1877-1915), who went down on the RMS Lusitania. His son Alfred Jr. became a noted horse breeder and racing elder. Harold Stirling Vanderbilt (1884-1970) gained fame as a sportsman, winning the most coveted prize in yacht racing, the America’s Cup, on three occasions. His brother “Willie K” launched the Vanderbilt Cup for auto racing. Cornelius Vanderbilt IV (1898-1974) became an accomplished writer, newspaper publisher, and film producer. However, others made headlines as a result of drug and alcohol abuse and multiple marriages.

More tomorrow…

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

%d bloggers like this: